The Cost of Being a Vendor at a Food Festival

March 2015

Are you considering starting your own food cart, and curious what to expect in terms of costs? Helen Qin, breaks down the costs for her first show with an ice cream trailer in this month's article.

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The Cost of Being a Vendor at a Food Festival

by Helen Qin for

My boyfriend and I made a big move at the beginning of this year from Los Angeles to Cleveland for a job promotion I received at work. He'd gotten into making ice cream while we were in California-we had even tossed around the idea of starting our own business, but the task was daunting and the costs seemed prohibitive.

Due to the move, we are currently living rent-free with his mom while he looks for employment. Given my salary bump and the lower cost of living, it seemed like a good time to take a risk, so we started Mason's Creamery, our ice cream business. We decided to target food festivals and farmer's markets because:
  1. The initial costs are lower than it would be to rent a storefront or go the food truck route.
  2. It's about to be summer! People love food festivals and farmer's markets in the summer, right?
  3. That's pretty much it.
In March, we applied, and somehow finagled our way into an upcoming festival in Cleveland that will happen in May. We were also recently accepted to the downtown Cleveland Farmer's Market, and will continue to apply to others around the area. This way, we hope to get our name out and eventually segue into something less booth-like. For anyone curious about the costs of starting a very small business, or the costs of a festival (because you love festivals in the summer), here's the rundown:


- $120, one-time: Business incorporation for the state of Ohio, with which we can now procure our EIN (free of charge!).

- $299/year: Liability insurance-we used Food Insurance Liability Program (FLIP). FLIP covers food vendors at festivals and farmer's market at a much lower cost than actual food insurers. The $299 we paid is the lowest rate, which is based on sales numbers. Our sales are $0.

- $25, one-time: Transient vendor's license for the state of Ohio, which will need to be renewed yearly but paid only once.

- $15/every three years: Online food safety course called ServSafe, a national food safety certification.

- $160, one-time: Food vendor license and placard for the city of Cleveland.

Read more here!

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